By His Bootstraps
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By His Bootstraps

4.01 of 5 stars 4.01  ·  rating details  ·  329 ratings  ·  11 reviews
"By His Bootstraps" is a science fiction short story by Robert A. Heinlein that plays with some of the inherent paradoxes that would be caused by time travel. It was originally published in the October 1941 issue of Astounding Science Fiction (US) under the pen name Anson MacDonald.
45 pages
Published by Atlas Publishing & Distributing (first published October 1941)
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Jeff Yoak
By His Bootstraps is atypical for a Heinlein story, particularly in terms of having a weak and undesirable main character. I think this was a byproduct of a very unusual plot challenge.

While Heinlein used time travel in other places, it was always of a distant sort. If you are both willing to move 2000 years through time and declare yourself unsure of potential paradoxes, time traveling isn't that big a burden. You just get an interesting setting. This was Heinlein's one use of close time travel...more
Andreea Daia
In spite of its several lacks, I mostly enjoyed By His Bootstraps, particularly because it condenses my personal theory about the quintessence of time. ツ

Robert A. Heinlein imagines an applied example of "immovable history" (my home-brewed term), which postulates that an actor is not able to change any events (past and future) of his/her life: s/he can only fulfill the history. The fantasy genre (and not only!) makes great use of the concept in the form of prophecies, while science-fiction mostly...more
Stephen Gutowski
A wonderful short story for the sci-fi-minded. A pleasantly unique examination of the paradox of time travel that's sewn together in a most imaginative way.

An intriguing and quick read that I'd recommend to anybody who doesn't mind a narrative that may leave you a bit dizzy.
Onemore Fakefbpage
This Astounding Science Fiction is one of my prized possessions. It is a great little insight into the war years, the story rocks and I just had to own something special to remind me of all the enjoyment Robert Heinlein has given me.

FOR THE RECORD - it is published in Astounding Science Fiction 1941 under the alias Anson Macdonald. It was reprinted later under Robert Heinlein I believe.

My copy is not in good condition & has little real value..............except to me.
Susan
It was interesting to read this because it's vintage Heinlein, originally published in 1941. But it's hard to judge it on its own terms since so much more thoughtful work on time travel has been done since. The description says the story "plays with some of the inherent paradoxes" of time travel; and "play" with them is about all it does: there seems no attempt to make any of it make sense, or even to make what happens seem plausible.
Sharath Sriram
Given the fact that it is a short story, I think it is brilliant. It makes good use of the paradoxes and time travel in general and might make an average reader slightly confused. For those who love science-fiction and time travel, this is a must-read, a great book and a quick one too.
Niki
Very interesting short story, and one of the first to properly make use of time travel paradoxes in which a character meets himself. The plot ended up influencing science-fiction as a whole. Early Heinlein at its most audacious, without many of the social themes that showed up in his later work. Oddly for Heinlein, his main character is a misogynist arsehole with no desire to better himself - also oddly for Heinlein, it's very soft sci-fi, and mathematics are presented as an esoteric field at be...more
Mike
3.5 stars. A bit predictable, if you've read many time travel stories, but I'll be the first to say that this is more a reflection on me, reading the story nearly 75 years later. The story has some well-developed, classic ideas. I had to go back to review to catch more of the subtle details, which was nice.
Mick
Sep 18, 2012 Mick rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: sf
I think it's one of the greatest time-travel paradox stories ever, but the main flaw is that he tells the same situation several times from different angles. The 2nd and 3rd time you go through the same thing, you want to skip a few pages.
Peter
Mind blowing time travel short story. No nonsense, just gets right into it. Really enjoyed it and would have loved for it to be a full length novel.
Andy
fun, not too long.
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Robert Anson Heinlein was an American novelist and science fiction writer. Often called "the dean of science fiction writers", he is one of the most popular, influential, and controversial authors of "hard science fiction".

He set a high standard for science and engineering plausibility and helped to raise the genre's standards of literary quality. He was the first SF writer to break into mainstre...more
More about Robert A. Heinlein...
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“In Wilson's scale of evaluations breakfast rated just after life itself and ahead of the chance of immortality.” 8 likes
“You are telling me that I did something because I was going to do something.”
“Well, didn’t you? You were there.”
“No, I didn’t—no… well, maybe I did, but it didn’t feel like it.”
“Why should you expect it to? It was something totally new to your experience.”
“But… but—” Wilson took a deep breath and got control of himself. Then he reached back into his academic philosophical concepts and produced the notion he had been struggling to express. “It denies all reasonable theories of causation. You would have me believe that causation can be completely circular. I went through because I came back from going through to persuade myself to go through. That’s silly.”
“Well, didn’t you?”
7 likes
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